Top Notch Bluegrass at the 6th Annual Sedona Bluegrass Festival

By Dave Cooper

Nestled amid Northern Arizona’s picturesque Red Rocks in Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona is famous for its magnificent natural scenery. Sedona is also famous for being top-notch in cultural events and cuisine offerings. The Sixth Annual Sedona Bluegrass Festival, coming up this weekend at Los Abrigados Resort & Spa, qualifies as both. The fun begins this Wednesday May 30th and goes through Sunday June 3rd. Grammy Award winning bluegrass talents Tim O’Brien and Bryan Sutton headline this year’s festival.

In grand celebration of this distinctive American roots music, the Sixth Annual Sedona Bluegrass Festival packs in five event filled days. Leading up to the festival, you can enjoy Evening Chamber Music at the Library, Bluegrass in the Galleries, a BBQ Benefit, Art Walk, Workshops and Jam Sessions. Sunday’s main event schedule promises an array of gifted musicians performing the lively, traditional bluegrass sound with verve and authenticity.

Tim O'Brien & Bryan Sutton

Playing from noon until 1:15pm Sunday, Flagstaff-based quartet Muskellunge Bluegrass takes the stage. Muskellunge Bluegrass is led by guitarist/vocalist Nolan McKelvey who was called "One of the best songwriters of the Southwest" in FlagLive! He was named "Best Musician in Flagstaff" in the 2010 Arizona Daily Sun Reader’s Poll. Muskellunge Bluegrass is sure to fire up the crowd and get this year’s Sedona Bluegrass Festival fully-charged for the festival.

In the first of two festival performances, Sleepy Man Banjo Boys take the stage at 1:45pm that day. This talented trio of siblings features 10-year-old banjo prodigy Jonny Mizzone and his brothers Robbie (12) and Tommy (14), who hail all the way from the rural western hills of New Jersey. Sleepy Man Banjo Boys play their second set from 4:00 to 4:30pm.

Following the Sleepy Man Banjo Boys on the bill are The Mizzone Brothers, a group whose formidable talent claims inspiration from legendary bluegrass icons Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs. The Mizzone Brothers have garnered major national attention on the Late Show with David Letterman and NBC’s Today Show. Last August they made their debut onstage at the Grand Ole Opry. The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno have also reportedly expressed interest in showcasing this highly talented trio.

One of the Southwest’s preeminent bluegrass bands, Run Boy Run, performs from 2:30-3:45pm. Fueled by stirring three-part female harmony, a rhythmic bass line, and two-time Arizona State Fiddle Champion Matt Rolland, Run Boy Run is sure to be a crowd pleaser.Run Boy Run Run Boy Run has captured many awards, including being chosen as best band at the prestigious Telluride Bluegrass Festival band competition in 2011. They are slated to perform at the 2012 Telluride Bluegrass Festival. Paste Magazine cites Run Boy Run as one of the "10 Arizona bands you should listen to now."

Capping off the Sixth Annual Sedona Bluegrass Festival, headliners Tim O’Brien and Bryan Sutton grace the stage from 4:45 until 6:00pm. Wielding refined skills on numerous stringed instruments, Tim O’Brien will showcase the talent that has earned him a Grammy Award and gotten his songs covered by the Dixie Chicks, Garth Brooks, Dierks Bentley, Nickel Creek and others. O’Brien has also collaborated with multi Grammy Award Winners Steve Martin and the Chieftains. O’Brien’s fellow Grammy Award winner, multi-instrumentalist Bryan Sutton shares the headlining spot on Sunday. Sutton has earned distinction six times as IBMA “Guitarist of the Year” and played alongside Ricky Skaggs, Jerry Douglas, Dolly Parton, among other notables.

Together, Tim O’Brien and Bryan Sutton combine their individual talents to create true bluegrass magic. Their performance is certain to close out this year’s Sedona Bluegrass Festival in stellar style.

Los Abrigados will be serving a big variety of menu items at the festival, including sandwiches such as Pulled Pork, Bratwurst, Grilled Chicken and Veggie Burgers. There will be no shortage of treats for those with a sweet tooth. Beverage stations will be set up at the festival. Adult festival seating is $35; student tickets are $20, and children 12 and under are free. Check the Sixth Annual Sedona Bluegrass Festival website for tickets and general event info and remember performance times are subject to change.